Ecklon's Purple Iceplant
"Stars wheel in purple, yours is not so rare
as Hesperus, nor yet so great a star."
Fullest of full sun is required by this Cape Province South African succulent. Delosperma ecklonis 'Bright Eyes' resembles the most commonly seen iceplant, D. cooperi, but scaled down in size.
Where D. cooperi has fat fleshy fingers for foliage, 'Bright Eyes' has tiny foliage; & the metallic purple flowers are less than half the size of its bigger cousin, though so numerous they make a similarly big impression.
The select strain 'Bright Eyes' begins flowering in May & continues throughout the summer. it requires the best possible drainage & is extremely drought hardy. So long as excess moisture doesn't cause it to rot away, it will spread almost aggressively.
Ours is kept in a pot on the front porch where it sits amidst a collection of potted iceplants including D. herbeum trailing white iceplant, & two hardy yellow iceplants, D. nubigenum & Othonna capensis 'Little Pickles.' These make great small & neglectable outdoor container plants because of their bright flowers & their preference for exceedingly little water.
There are more than 100 species within the genus Delosperma, all in South Africa to Zimbabwe. The species D. ecklonis is named for 19th Century botanist & pharmacist Christian Friedrich Ecklon (1795-1868), for whom many South African plant species are named. He came to the Cape from Germany in 1823 to hunt plants of potential medicinal value, & interviewing native peoples for clues to useful plants.
Ecklon's work was significant, but poor funding & deteriorating health eventually reduced him to a penurious living selling South African bulbs to gardeners, & preparing herbal remedies for a few privileged Cape Town hypochondriacs. But his extensive herbarium was acquired by his friend Otto Wilhelm Sonder (1812-1881), a Hamburg pharmacist who used Ecklon's collection as the basis for his multivolume Flora Capensis (1860-1865).
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